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In the wild, raccoons would eat whatever they come across and the situation hasn't changed now that they're living right alongside (and sometimes WITH) people. Read about what Attracts Raccoons. They're known as scavengers — the same as rats and mice — and they are responsible for cleaning up, in some senses. They eat all the stuff that is naturally left behind — dead animals of their own species and others, alongside food that is rotting or has already gone bad. If people weren't around, you could class these scavengers as caretakers, making sure that waste and dead animals are disposed of quickly and efficiently — the proverbial "circle of life". When one animal dies, another animal gets fed.
As well as being scavengers, raccoons are also known to be opportunistic hunters, which is pretty much as the name would suggest. If the raccoon spots an animal that they think they could easily make into their prey, they will attack. If they feel that they cannot overpower the animal — potential prey — they will leave it well alone. That's when the tables are turned and the raccoon turns from predator into prey itself. They aren't stupid creatures; quite the opposite. They won't take on a fight that they know they have no hope of winning.
As you might have already guessed, raccoons are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal food. They'll devour a dead rat in the same way that they'll munch through all the apples that have fallen from a tree. In places where they are freely available, raccoons will choose fruits, berries, nuts, and seeds. Agricultural areas can be devastated, the raccoon making full use of the grain and other foods on offer.
In areas where water can be found, which also just so happens to be the areas that these animals like to live, raccoons will also eat crayfish, fish (small ones), frogs, newts, and other aquamarine life.
They will also eat insects and small mammals and rodents — bringing in the opportunistic hunting side. A small critter will easily attract the attention of this hunter.
As we move into areas where there are more people, the raccoon will still stay with their diet of insects, fish, other marine life, and fruits, vegetables, and other plants in back gardens. Things change a little here, though; the raccoon starts to eat food that has been thrown out by people — leftovers or food that has gone bad.
If there is a constant and steady source of food, such as garbage bags or an unsecured Go back to the Raccoon Removal page, or learn tips to do it yourself with my How to Get Rid of Raccoons guide.
READER EMAIL: Hi, David. I have read all of your excellent articles and sub-information on how to trap raccoons, because here at our nonprofit, Cove Creek Gardens: A Conservation Teaching Garden in Greensboro, NC we have had a small family which has become very focused on our main building! I was able to successfully trap the mother and one kit right off the bat, using your recommendations and a Havahart collapsible trap (could not find the "professional model" locally). Now, I am stuck with the trap being more of a Feeding Station (I put in the marshmallows and bread, add a little trail to enter the trap and the raccoon has done the following: BREAK the cage; (replaced it and wired the connections shut) and NOW figured out how to enter, avoid the trip lever, while eating all of the bait! I watched him/her last evening (NOT dark!), bold as brass, come up the steps, eat the trail of marshmallows calmly even though voices could be heard easily, and then go around the cage to make sure entry was absolutely required before going in, tiptoeing over the trip lever, eating the marshmallows calmly and then tiptoeing back out and leaving for the evening ahead. That's it. I am at my wits' end. Any other suggestions for me? I have a non-collapsible trap on its way from Amazon.com and hope it will help...but is there any suggestion you might make to help me make the raccoon "work for the bait" and maybe trip the lever in the process? As a small nonprofit, we don't have a budget that allows for outside help unless we just cannot crack this job. $450.00 would be a lot for us for an unplanned situation, actually. Thanks for any clues you may be able to provide, David. Your articles are always helpful to me as the main Educator here at Cove Creek Gardens. "You're the Man!!"
Trapping can be hard. It sounds like you need a bigger, stronger, better cage trap. You can tie the bait to the back of the trap, or dangle it from a string. You can line the bottom of the trap with cardboard or carpet to disguise the trip pan. Good luck!
Thanks, David. I will immediately try hiding that trip lever and I was planning to hang the bait too...SURELY something will "trip" this critter up! Appreciate your rapid response, and your support.
Dear David, Thanks to your additional tips, I have trapped that persnickety raccoon!!!!!! Last night, bing! at 6 pm there SHE was, trapped. And, it turns out she was pregnant, very pregnant. Well, David, you really saved us a huge disaster here. There is a lot of new construction going on around the Gardens, including an eventual Passive Tree Preserve with Walking Trials, which the Gardens spearheaded and has gifted additional green space to...nonetheless, our population of red foxes, opossum, raccoons, white-tail deer and others are feeling the stress and moving around. Attached please find 2 views of the "rigged" trap, with the trip lever covered, as it was set up for the job. Sorry that I could not get a pic for you of the critter in the cage, but she fought me like a crazy one and I had to just make a rush to the truck and make that drive!! Thanks again, David, and I will never forget the service you have given to me, and to our nonprofit; I will send you a copy of our next newsletter which will have a write-up of your pro bono contribution. You ARE the man!!
That's great to hear! Good work. Cheers!